Few would argue against the transcendent power of a good night’s sleep. Yet fewer of us are getting the precious sleep we need—and our mattresses could be to blame.
The statistics are stacking up like duvets on a cold night. Sixteen percent of Americans sleep fewer than six hours a night and more than 80 chronic sleep disorders have been identified. Sleep deprivation is linked to depression, an alarming number of accidents and even obesity.
Though little can be done to soothe new-job jitters or an inconsolable infant, a restful night often starts with a good mattress. The word “good,” of course, is subjective. What works like a dream for one person is another’s nightmare. Thankfully, there is a greater variety of mattresses available than ever before, including ones with advance-engineered springs and coils, memory foam and a host of other technologies that promise a happy ending to our bedtime stories. Some of these new high-tech beds are commanding price tags of $5,000 to $50,000.
Like in the traditional mattress market, though, it is critical to assess the options and remember that price and quality don’t always go hand in glove. “A lot of beds on the market today are just there because people are willing to spend a lot of money on a bed,” cautions Winthrop Schwab, co-owner of Mattress Traditions in Falls Church, Virginia. “It’s important to know what you’re getting.”
The New Breed of Mattress
“Memory foam” beds—initially developed by manufacturer Tempur-Pedic—offer a completely new take on the mattress concept and are now a common showroom fixture from many manufacturers. Often denser and more compact than their traditional counterparts, these mattresses are made of open foam cells that deform and compress, self-adjusting to body size. The result is a mattress that remains firm where needed and soft where desired— creating a custom fit for each individual body.
While couples may agree on many things, few have the exact same needs in mattress support. Enter the air-chamber mattress, which has pockets on each side that can be adjusted by dialing in individual preferences for comfort, firmness and body support. These beds, sold under brand names such as Sleep Number (manufactured by Select Comfort), are sold in stores across Maryland, Virginia and DC.
Luxury bed-makers such as Swedish manufacturer DUX have taken this concept to even higher levels. The new Dux 8888 model, for example, features zones on each side of the bed that can be adjusted for shoulder, hip and leg support, plus it offers a lumbar support cushion that can be pumped up or deflated depending on user preference. To try out a Dux bed, you’ll have to travel to the company’s showrooms in Philadelphia or New York. The Manhattan store boasts two private sleeping chambers where visitors can test mattresses, which range in price from $5,000 to $10,500 for a king size.
These products’ technical nature can be a turn-off for people who don’t want to take a remote control to bed. “Some people don’t like the idea of having gadgets associated with their mattress. And because there is a mechanical aspect to it, there is the chance that you could wear out the control or have pump failure,” Schwab says. “It’s all covered under the warranty, but some people would prefer not to deal with it.”
Manually Adjustable Models
Not just for hospitals anymore, manually adjustable beds are growing in popularity among younger buyers, says Schwab. “They are great for reading in bed at night, and of course more and more people want to use their laptops in bed.”
Hollandia International’s new adjustable bed.
Israeli bed-maker Hollandia International just opened its first US retail outlet at the Marketplace Design Center in Philadelphia. Hollandia’s frames and mattresses—ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for the pair—are adjustable to numerous settings by using an air-pressure hand control that requires no electricity or batteries. Its mattresses are stuffed with breathable latex and covered in soft aloe-vera fibers. A portion of the mattress is specially engineered to accommodate side sleepers, adjusting support to improve blood flow.
The good news is that each of the core components of most traditional mattresses has undergone substantial upgrades in recent years. The upholstery layer—which tends to determine the price of most mattresses—used to average nine inches thick. Today, the average comes in at an about 15 inches. More important than the height, however, is what’s inside these layers. Several of Sealy’s high-end Stearns & Foster mattresses contain a new synthetic fiber that is soft like cotton but more resilient and durable. And Shifman Mattress, which sells through Bloomingdale’s among other outlets, stuffs its mattresses with fine cotton that the company processes in-house and then hand-tufts.
Given Americans’ obsession with sleep products, a number of European manufacturers, including U.K.-based Hypnos and Vi-Spring, and Sweden-based Hästens and DUX, have crossed the Atlantic with high-end mattresses, sold primarily through specialty shops and